Capital Clicks

Controversial housing voucher legislation advances

By: - March 12, 2020 3:12 pm

Iowa state Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, seated, left, and Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, seated, right, debate a bill that would ban cities and counties from enforcing local laws prohibiting discrimination against renters who use federal vouchers. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A controversial bill intended to block Iowa local governments from banning housing discrimination against people with rental vouchers advanced in the Iowa House Thursday. 

The bill, Senate File 2368, already passed the Senate. It next will be considered by the House Judiciary Committee.

The subcommittee was chaired by Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant. Lohse said he is a landlord and doesn’t accept federal rental vouchers. He generally favored allowing landlords to make their own decisions on whether to take the vouchers. That is the position apartment owners have taken in legislative meetings.

Lohse suggested housing officials meet with landlords to propose an amendment to the bill to address concerns.

Des Moines, Iowa City and Marion have city ordinances that would be overturned by the bill. 

Lobbyists packed a Capitol meeting room for Thursday’s hearing. 

Landlord organizations argued that landlords should be allowed to decide whether the accept federal vouchers. City officials and advocates for veterans and low-income families have argued that the voucher programs offer financial stability for landlords. They contend the bill will worsen Iowa’s shortage of affordable housing.

Municipal housing officials also said they fear that landlords will use their concerns about voucher programs as a way to discriminate against a tenant for racial or other other reasons that are banned by law. 

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